Bee pollen is plant pollen that honeybees store in their hives and use as food.
It contains over 250 substances, including antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids, which may benefit human health.
As such, many health “gurus” say bee pollen supplements can enhance well-being in various ways—from improving heart, bone, and female reproductive health to easing allergies, promoting wound healing, reducing inflammation, and weight loss.
If you’re wondering whether these claims are correct, whether bee pollen is good for you, and how to use bee pollen to promote healthfulness, this article is for you.
You’ll learn what bee pollen and bee pollen supplements are, the nutritional value of bee pollen, its benefits and side effects, how much bee pollen you should take (if any), and more.
What Is Bee Pollen?
Bee pollen is plant pollen that worker honeybees collect, mix with nectar and “secretions,” and pack into honeycomb cells to serve as a hive’s primary food source.
Bee pollen contains approximately 250 substances, including macro- and micronutrients, amino acids, lipids (including essential fatty acids), vitamins, and more.
Natural medicine practitioners praise bee pollen for its purported health benefits, arguing many bee pollen uses improve your well-being.
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Bee Pollen vs. Honey
Though often confused, bee pollen and honey are different.
Bee pollen is plant pollen collected and “processed” by worker bees. People often refer to bee pollen as “bee bread” since it’s an essential source of nutrition for bees, without which they couldn’t survive.
Honey, on the other hand, is referred to as “bee milk.” It’s a sweet, viscous substance that bees make for added nourishment.
Despite their differences, bee pollen and honey contain similar bioactive compounds (substances that benefit the body) with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and cardioprotective properties.
What Is A Bee Pollen Supplement?
A bee pollen supplement is a dietary supplement containing bee pollen.
Bee pollen naturally comes in granule form. However, not everyone likes to eat bee pollen granules: some find them bitter, others say they upset their stomach, and still others dislike their texture.
While you can address these issues by soaking bee pollen for hours or grinding it into a powder before eating it, many prefer bee pollen supplements, such as bee pollen capsules or drops.
These products don’t have the same drawbacks as bee pollen granules, may be more convenient, and often contain other bee products, such as royal jelly, which also reportedly confer health benefits.
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Bee Pollen: Nutrition Facts
One tablespoon of bee pollen contains the following:
- 40 calories
- 7 grams of carbs (including 4 grams of sugar, mainly fructose and glucose)
- 2 grams of protein
- 1 gram of fiber
It also contains various vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and vitamin C.
By percentage, bee pollen contains:
- 30% digestible carbs
- 26% sugars
- 23% protein
- 5% lipids
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Bee Pollen: Benefits
The most commonly touted benefits of bee pollen are that it boosts heart, bone, and female reproductive health, relieves allergies, aids wound healing and weight loss, and decreases inflammation.
Are these claims true, though?
Here’s what science says . . .
Bee Pollen and Heart Health
Some evidence suggests bee pollen favorably affects cholesterol levels and reduces oxidative stress, potentially decreasing your risk of developing cardiovascular issues, such as heart disease and stroke.
The unsaturated fatty acid content in bee pollen may also help prevent plaque buildup in your arteries and further decrease your risk of cardiovascular diseases.
These findings are encouraging, but we need more high-quality research before we can say bee pollen has a tangible benefit on heart health.
Bee Pollen and Bone Health
Although evidence of bee pollen improving bone health is limited to animal and in vitro (test-tube) studies, it’s rich in nutrients like calcium and vitamin D, both crucial for bone health.
As such, it may be a useful addition to a diet focused on maintaining or improving bone health, but we can’t say for sure until scientists study how bee pollen affects humans.
Bee Pollen and Female Reproductive Health
There’s little evidence bee pollen aids female reproductive health.
For instance, a study conducted at the Justus Liebig University of Giessen found that breast cancer patients who took bee pollen experienced fewer menopausal symptoms.
However, it was only about as effective as placebo, suggesting the relief the women felt was a placebo effect.
Another study conducted at the University Hospital of Copenhagen in Gentofte found that 65% of the female participants experienced fewer menopausal symptoms after taking a pollen extract for 3 months.
There are a few reasons to be skeptical of these findings, though.
First, 38% of the women who took a placebo saw similar improvements, which suggests much of the benefit was due to the placebo effect.
Second, a pollen extract—such as the one used in this study—may not have the same effects as regular bee pollen.
And third, a pharmaceutical company funded the research, which increases the likelihood that financial interest influenced the results.
Until we have more robust evidence that bee pollen benefits female reproductive health, it’s sensible to assume it’s ineffective in this regard.
Bee Pollen and Allergies
Limited research supports the claim that bee pollen reduces or eliminates allergic symptoms.
The only study that showed taking bee pollen for allergies was beneficial was published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology and found that mice given bee pollen extract and then exposed to an allergen showed reduced allergic symptoms (less paw swelling and lower levels of blood markers that indicate an allergic reaction).
In another study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, researchers found that bee pollen significantly reduces the activity of mast cells (white blood cells that contribute to immune function and allergic reactions).
While this finding is promising, the scientists only tested this mechanism in cells in a petri dish and mice, which makes it impossible to say if the same would occur in a living human.
Importantly, bee pollen can trigger allergic reactions in people with allergies to pollen and bee stings. As such, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider before taking bee pollen for allergies.
Bee Pollen and Wound Healing
Because of bee pollen’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it may improve wound healing and prevent infection.
For instance, results from animal studies show that bee pollen treats burns as effectively as silver sulfadiazine (a common burn treatment) and causes fewer side effects. Furthermore, bee pollen’s antimicrobial properties may help prevent infections, which could potentially accelerate healing.
Although these results are positive, we need evidence to confirm these effects in humans.
Bee Pollen and Weight Loss
Animal research suggests that taking bee pollen may decrease insulin resistance, increase fat burning, and boost metabolic rate, potentially aiding weight loss.
However, scientists haven’t replicated these finds in humans yet. Until they do, it’s probably not worth taking bee pollen for weight loss.
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Bee Pollen and Inflammation
Bee pollen contains many “anti-inflammatory” compounds, like flavonoids, phenolic and fatty acids, phytosterols, and polyphenols, that may be as effective at fighting inflammation as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including naproxen, analgin, phenylbutazone, and indomethacin.
For example, in one study conducted by scientists at Nagaragawa Research Center, researchers found that pollen extract reduced swelling by ~75% in rats with swollen paws.
Bee pollen fights inflammation by stopping enzymes, such as cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase, from creating toxic compounds that “inflame” your body’s tissues.
This means bee pollen may play a role in preventing diseases associated with chronic inflammation, including autoimmune, cardiovascular, metabolic, respiratory, and neurodegenerative diseases and some cancers.
That said, we can’t draw any firm conclusion about how effective bee pollen is at combating inflammation until scientists conduct high-quality human research.
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Bee Pollen: Side Effects
Most people tolerate bee pollen without issue, but it’s important to be aware of any potential bee pollen dangers.
Adverse reactions to bee pollen can range from mild to life-threatening. For example, if you’re sensitive to pollen, you may experience stomach upset, rash, skin redness, asthma, hay fever, nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting.
In rare instances, bee pollen can trigger severe allergic reactions, leading to anaphylaxis, or other serious health conditions, including hypereosinophilia and hepatitis.
Thus, those with bee or pollen allergies and pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid bee pollen supplements.
Also, because bee pollen can interfere with the effectiveness of certain medications like warfarin, it’s sensible to consult your healthcare provider before taking bee pollen.
How Much Bee Pollen Should I Take?
There’s currently no established clinically effective dose of bee pollen. That said, research indicates supplementing with 20-to-40 grams daily is beneficial for adults. Children should take roughly half as much.
FAQ #1: What is bee pollen good for?
Research suggests bee pollen may improve heart and bone health, lessen menopausal symptoms, allergies, and inflammation, and promote wound healing.
However, the evidence to support these benefits is weak. Until more robust research confirms these effects in humans, it’s better to consider them potential rather than proven benefits.
FAQ #2: What does bee pollen taste like?
Bee pollen taste varies, often reflecting the plant origin, though people generally describe it as earthy, floral, sweet, and slightly bitter.
The texture is typically crunchy, and it can leave a slightly powdery residue in your mouth. Some liken it to the taste of raw honey or floral honeycomb but with more complexity due to the varying plant sources.
FAQ #3: Is bee pollen vegan?
Whether you consider bee pollen vegan depends on your interpretations of veganism.
Some vegans avoid bee pollen because it’s an animal product, and its collection may disrupt or harm bees. Others consider it vegan, provided bees and their colonies aren’t harmed during harvesting.
FAQ #4: Does bee pollen help with allergies?
It’s not clear.
Some people believe exposing yourself to small amounts of local pollen through bee pollen supplements could desensitize your immune system and help you manage allergies. Still, there’s little scientific evidence to support this theory.
FAQ #5: How can I eat bee pollen?
Incorporating bee pollen into your diet is easy due to its versatility. It pairs well with a variety of foods, and you can use it in hundreds of bee pollen recipes, such as the following:
- Smoothies: A teaspoon of bee pollen can provide a nutrient boost to your morning smoothie.
- Yogurt and Cereal: Sprinkling bee pollen over your yogurt or cereal provides a nice crunch and subtly sweet taste.
- Salads: Bee pollen can serve as a nutritious topping for your salad, adding a novel flavor and texture.
- Desserts: Bee pollen can add a healthy twist to dessert recipes like cookies, cakes, and other baked goods.
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